by Carlos Solorio
That took me aback. I met Marcos Valdez in college and we had a similar trajectory. He was an intern on Wall Street. I’m pretty sure he was a quant. He graduated Summa Cum Laude in math and had been a three-sport valedictorian in high school. In three words: Genius Teddy Bear.
Two years have passed. He wasn’t meant for Wall Street. To quote from his Facebook wall, “I’m probably one of the most blessed people around for having had the opportunity to work with countless Latinos and Latinas across the nation to inspire over 1,000 high school students to go to college and help them realize there isn’t a barrier in this world that they can’t overcome.”
We’ve been in the same city twice already and I can’t catch him. He started working for the Hispanic Youth Institute as the National Director of College Student Leadership. He flies city to city hosting hundreds of students over the summer running their kick-off event. For four days and three nights, Latino/a high school students participate in college and career workshops, connect with local Hispanic heroes, meet college admissions officers, interact with mentors, listen to inspirational speakers, and compete for scholarships.
Students are placed into familias (groups of five to eight high school students) and lead by their mentors who are Latinos currently in college. Students overcome perceived barriers that Latinos don’t belong in college. It’s an emotional process. People cry. Over the course of the last two days, students learn about the application process, the standardized tests, and finally, they learn how to finance their education.
“By the end of the program, not only are students stating that they will attend college, but they have the feeling that there isn’t an obstacle that they can’t overcome.” Marcos told me, “That feeling of empowerment is the greatest gift you can give to any young person because it perpetuates into their schools and communities. “
I went paintballing with my cousin last week. He had attended the program and I asked him about it. He’s not much for words. “It surprised me.” he said, “I didn’t think it would change me, but it did.”
So, screw it. Wall Street lost a great trader. Marcos will make a better teacher.
To learn more about Carlos, visit his web site.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.